The Cave Temples Of Mati Si
Mati Si Cave Temples is a complex of Buddhist grottoes located in Gansu province, China. The site features numerous caves and shrines carved into the mountainside, some of which date back to the 4th century. It is also known as the “Horse’s Hoof Temple” due to its unique shape.
The history of the Mati Si Cave Temples dates back to the Northern Liang dynasty (397-439 AD), when the first grottoes were carved into the sandstone cliffs. The site was further developed during the Western Wei (535-557 AD) and Northern Zhou (557-581 AD) dynasties. The caves and temples were used for Buddhist worship and meditation and served as a center for Buddhist learning and teachings. Over the centuries, many of the grottoes were damaged or destroyed by natural disasters and human activities, but some have been restored and preserved as important cultural heritage sites.
The architecture of Mati Si Cave Temples is a blend of traditional Chinese and Buddhist styles. The complex consists of more than 70 caves and grottoes carved into the cliffs, with a total of over 7,000 statues and murals. The caves are interconnected by a network of paths and bridges, and visitors can explore the site by climbing the steep steps and wooden walkways.
The caves are adorned with intricate carvings and colorful paintings depicting Buddhist stories and figures, as well as scenes of daily life from different periods of Chinese history. The larger caves also feature imposing statues of the Buddha and other deities. The natural rock formations of the cliffs have been incorporated into the design of the caves, creating a harmonious blend of human and natural elements.
Things to do and See
Mati Si Cave Temples offers a range of fascinating things to do and see for visitors, including:
- Explore the Caves: The main attraction of Mati Si is its intricate network of caves and grottoes. Visitors can wander through the winding tunnels and admire the beautiful murals and statues that adorn the walls.
- Marvel at the Statues: The caves are home to thousands of statues, ranging from small to enormous. Many of the larger caves feature towering statues of the Buddha, along with other Buddhist deities and figures.
- Admire the Murals: The walls of the caves are decorated with intricate murals depicting Buddhist stories, scenes of daily life, and other subjects. The colors and details of the murals are truly stunning.
- Enjoy the Views: The site is located in a beautiful natural setting, with towering cliffs and sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can take in the scenery from various vantage points, including the top of the mountain.
- Experience Buddhist Culture: Mati Si is an important center for Buddhist worship and culture, and visitors can gain insights into these traditions by observing the rituals and practices of local worshippers.
- Visit the Monastery: There is a small monastery located near the entrance to the caves, where visitors can learn more about the history and significance of the site. The monks may also offer guided tours and answer questions.
- Take a Hike: The site is surrounded by scenic hiking trails, which offer the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the region and see more remote caves and temples.
Overall, Mati Si Cave Temples is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Buddhist culture, history, and art.
How to reach
Mati Si Cave Temples are located in Gansu Province, China, approximately 65 km southeast of Zhangye City. There are several ways to reach the site:
- By Air: The nearest airport is Zhangye Ganzhou Airport, which has flights to and from major Chinese cities. From the airport, visitors can hire a taxi or take a bus to the site.
- By Train: Zhangye Railway Station is the nearest train station, and has connections to major cities in China. From the station, visitors can take a taxi or bus to the site.
- By Bus: There are regular buses from Zhangye City to Mati Si, which take approximately 2 hours. Visitors can catch a bus from the Zhangye West Bus Station.
- By Car: Visitors can also hire a private car or taxi to reach Mati Si, which takes approximately 1.5 hours from Zhangye City.
Once visitors reach Mati Si, they can take a shuttle bus or walk the 3 km from the ticket office to the site entrance. There is also a cable car that can take visitors up to the caves, which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.